No, this time I am not talking about mal de mer i.e. our propensity for sea sickness!

Steve building the solar panel mount

One thing that appeals to me about the cruising lifestyle is the relatively small environmental footprint we leave. We spend many hours and miles using wind power alone to get from one place to another….and consuming relatively small amounts of diesel in and out of ports etc. We leave a clean wake and try substantially reduce waste on board. I use a half or quarter paper towel at a time and then only when using a cloth is not the best option. We walk everywhere when we are on land. When provisioning we try to selectively purchase less packaging and/or repackage or depackage/recycle if we can’t. And we have had solar and wind generators on board since 2012. However we have not been properly “off grid” as our energy usage when on anchor almost always exceeds our energy generation. We have over the last few years changed all our lights to LED. That helped. But most of the draw comes from our fridge and freezer which run on separate compressors. We know people who do without a fridge or freezer on cruising sailboats. Not me! That is one concession I will NOT make.

So this spring, among our other boat maintenance and repair projects we took on another upgrade project – a new solar panel. I did the research and purchasing and Steve was the installer, a good partnership. We chose a 320 watt high efficiency LG panel – the largest wattage in a 60 cell panel size we could find. And we installed it over our dinghy davits to minimize shading from rigging etc.  Steve had to study up for the installation but did a fine job of mounting the two new charge controllers in an aft lazarette, appropriately fused, and then building the mounting frame, despite hassles with the incorrect specs from LG and a poor design from the stainless people. Those issues solved, and the new  solar panel installed and tethered we set off for the cruising season.

And the good news is… drum roll please…. we are now totally off grid! At anchor we run the inverter all night to charge our phones and also power my CPAP (breathing) machine which I need at night. On a reasonably sunny day our batteries are back to fully topped up by early afternoon (assuming we are at anchor all day and not running the engine at all). We love the new Victron charge controllers (one for the new panel and Steve replaced the one for the older panel) as we can now monitor our solar generation via a cell phone app! We have one more tweak to make to have the panel tilting mechanism working correctly which will give us even more power.  But we are already thrilled with the new solar panel performance. Yahoo!